On the night of September 6, 2019, Riya Patel was celebrated at Seasons Reception Venue to receive the 28th Annual Mayor’s Merit Award for Community Service. She was recognized for her outstanding help in the community in a multitude of areas, and for being an honorable example of someone who takes pride in their service.
While in her Sophomore year in high school, Riya worked at Yale-New Haven Hospital in the high school volunteer program. There were many opportunities that came along with the program, including working directly with patients in the nursing units, clerical work, greeting people at the door, and working at the book cart, where the volunteers pass out magazines and books to patients. The high school volunteers learn key skills like the importance of giving back to their community, talking to adults, gaining confidence in the workplace, and what Yale-New Haven Hospital Volunteer Coordinator, Ms. Anne Wilkinson, calls “soft skills”. She states, “A hard skill would be how to use a machine, and a soft skill would be how to talk to people, how to make a phone call, how to disagree with somebody.” Riya spent a lot of time on patient care, working in geriatrics in her first season and pediatrics in her third. She loves her work at the hospital, even if it is just sitting with someone to show her support.
Riya was also a high school intern at the East Haven Police Department. The interns observe and learn how officers carry out duties, how dispatchers operate, and about the loads of paperwork that come along with the job. Riya said she went on ride-alongs, learned about cases, and how police cars operate. Riya described the impact of her work at the Police Department in her speech at the Mayor’s Merit Award Ceremony. She said, “This past year, I’ve been doing an internship at the East Haven Police Department and really getting to know the job, the roles, and the interaction between the community and the officers. I’ve realized that everyone gets along, they respect one another, talk, and there’s a good bond between them. That is what I want. I want to become a police officer because I know there is something I can do to better my community, to better the environment we live in, and maybe have an impact on someone’s life for the better.” Lieutenant David Emerman of the East Haven Police Department highlights the importance of community service overall by saying, “It helps people understand how they can give back to the community. There’s obviously all types of different community service that people can do, and obviously, Riya has done for the town, but I think it’s a good way to give back and help other people who might need some help. There’s definitely a good value. You’re basically volunteering your time for free... There are good lessons to be learned in donating your time. A common theme amongst Riya’s supervisors was: community service is important because it gives back to the people.
Students often see community service as an obligation for graduation. Students can benefit from volunteering in ways that interest them. Assistant Principal Susan Harkins claims, “Community service teaches us how to communicate with others, build relationships, and make connections. It may potentially aid in finding an area we are passionate about and may want to pursue a career in. It also looks good on a college application or when interviewing for a job. To me, it just makes us feel good knowing we helped others.” Community service is so valuable to students and all people alike. Riya has made quite an impression through her work at the police station. Lt. Emerman raved about her dedication to the internship, “Phenomenal. She’s a really intelligent young woman.” Volunteering for a hospital or police station may be very interesting ways for someone to offer their time, but by shedding light on Riya’s example of a model community service volunteer may inspire students to take pride in service that entices them specifically, and find value in helping your community.